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“The X-Men Changed the Way I Saw the World” – John’s Story

Remember why you liked comics in the first place?

Our Comics Empower Project continues!

This time, John tells his story:

What do comics mean to me?

When I was in seventh grade, my friend introduced me to my first comic book series in the form of X-Men.

The year was 1995 and we sat in math class talking about Apocalypse, Cyclops, Phoenix, Beast, Angel, Colossus, Storm, Cyclops and Wolverine.

I was thoroughly schooled on all things Uncanny including the Blue and Silver Teams, which was a revelation. Why and how could you decide to split up such a perfect team? The Blue and Silver teams were field teams, one led by Cyclops while the other was led by Storm.

But even more amazing than the Blue and Silver Teams were X-Factor and X-Force, which are offshoots of the main X-Men team. By the time 7th grade was finished, I was hooked and could fully immerse myself in X-Men: The Animated Series, which actually debuted in 1992.

Thus starting my lifelong obsession with teams.

‘Teams’, you might think? How absurd. Teams you may giggle? You might think that the real beauty of the X-Men comic series was showing the struggle of a new type of people as they faced such poignant issues as racism, sexism and classism.

Those struggles sometimes lay outside of the everyday superpowered bad guy storyline.

But what I saw was a way to be special. But not special because of a cool power.

No. I thought that each X-Man was special because this awesome powered person becomes a part of a mega, ultimate assault. That was the best thing ever to me. Even now it seems odd that I can break down my comic book experience in one word – team.

But that’s 100% correct.

What did I do with my new appreciation of teams that developed through comic books? I let it grow and develop and allowed myself the opportunity to go down different paths.

And somehow each path led to more and more teams.

While most people were in a bitter mood in 1996 after MJ retired from the Chicago Bulls for the last time, I saw something else. I saw potential in this sport team.

During my first year in high school, I would arrive at school at about 7:30 in the morning and go to the library where I would read about each new Chicago Bulls signee and draftee. I didn’t get the paper at home and the internet wasn’t as robust as it is now, so the school’s library was my best option. I was intent on seeing how an immensely popular, previously successful Chicago Bulls sports team could rebuild after the NBA’s G.O.A.T left them.

Next, I’ve always been an avid cinema lover so it was only natural that I gravitate to team movies but probably not the type of team movie that you would expect. While in high school, I discovered the Five Heartbeats, a Robert Townsend movie, which chronicled the rise and fall of a 5 person singing group started in the 1960s. It was loosely based off the Dells. It had everything.

I remember this one line when Bobby, the lead singer at the time, did not show up for a gig. Duck, the musician and song writer was outraged and said in response, “He knows I wrote everything in a 5 part harmony.”

Everything worked out, but that line exemplifies the importance of every member. The Five Heartbeats was the consummate bio musical movie only rivaled by the Temptations movie that came out in 1998. With this movie you also see a rollercoaster of events surrounding the collective – the team.

My last area of interest is in music creation itself, I created my own music team. I play the guitar, drums, keys and bass and started a band called Legacy. I taught all of the members how to play.

Legacy started as a bunch of guys who shared the same love of pop culture, movies, cartoons and you guessed it – comic books. By the end of our run, we recorded a single and had gigs all over Chicago.

That team was great while it lasted!

I was truly blessed to look at comics and figure out a special translation that I could carry with me every day. This is a notion that I credit with Professor X and his merry band of mutants – a group I first read about in 7th grade math class.

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Category: Comics Empower